Pregnancy and arthritis
- Will pregnancy affect my arthritis?
- Will my child inherit arthritis?
- How will pregnancy affect my arthritis?
- What precautions should I take during the pregnancy?
- What measures should I take after the birth of my child?
- Will I have difficulty giving birth?
- Can I take medication for my arthritis while pregnant?
Will pregnancy affect my arthritis?
Arthritis does not affect the actual course of pregnancy in most women. However, if you have one of the rarer forms of arthritis-for example, lupus-which affects your internal organs, such as your kidneys or heart, then it may cause some problems during the pregnancy.
The joints and muscles may be affected by the physical changes that occur during pregnancy. Under increased pressure, weight-bearing joints may become worse.
Rheumatoid Arthritis may improve during pregnancy. For most women, this occurs by the end of the fourth month. While joint swelling may decrease, joint pain will persist due to existing joint damage.
Lupus Arthritis may stay the same, improve or flare up. To reduce the prospect of a flare up, you should ideally be in remission for six months before you become pregnant. This means not only that you feel well, but that blood tests and other tests for the disease are also normal.
Research on Scleroderma and other types of arthritis are not as conclusive. If your illness does improve, it may flare up two to eight weeks after your baby is born. Proper planning and treatment before, during and after pregnancy, however, can help decrease pain and swelling and help improve your ability to function.
Will my child inherit arthritis?
Probably not. While the causes of most forms of arthritis are not known, some forms tend to appear in families more often than others. However heredity is never the single factor that determines if a person develops arthritis. Scientists have found certain genetic markers that may indicate if some people have a higher risk of getting some types of arthritis. However, the relationship between these markers and the actual development of arthritis is still unclear and does not mean you will pass arthritis on to your child. Generally, there is no way to tell if your child will ever have arthritis in the future.
How will pregnancy affect my arthritis?
The physical changes that normally occur during pregnancy may affect your joints and muscles in the following ways.
- Joints may become looser and less stable.
- Much more blood flows through your body during pregnancy, so a healthy heart is vital.
- Your breathing muscles will move upward due to the growing baby. This may cause only mild uncomfortable shortness of breath.
- Knee problems may become worse due to your increased weight causing knee pain, especially while going up or down stairs.
- Weight gain may increase stiffness.
- As your uterus grows, your spine curves slightly to support it. This can lead to muscle spasms in your back.
What precautions should I take during pregnancy?
As a pregnant woman with arthritis, you should take extra precautions. You should exercise to maintain strong muscles and joints. Learning to use joints in a protective way reduces stress on the joints. As with all pregnant women, stress management will minimise emotional turmoil. A balanced diet and knowledge of the effects of your medication are also advisable.
What measures should I take after the birth of my child?
To protect against a flare up of your arthritis after the birth of your child, you should follow the following advice:
- Make regular visits to the doctor to monitor your arthritis
- Resume a strict exercise plan
- Be knowledgeable of the medication you are taking, and if it is suitable for breast feeding
- Avoid over-using your joints.
Will I have difficulty giving birth?
Probably not, but usually decisions about the type of delivery are made on the basis of specific circumstances at the time of delivery, and not always planned in advance. It is important that you find a comfortable position during the delivery process. You probably can deliver your baby vaginally, lying on your back, even if you have had a hip replacement. If this position is uncomfortable, you may want to lie on your side or sit in a rocking chair.
Can I take medication for my arthritis while pregnant?
It is best to take advice from both your obstetrician and your rheumatologist about arthritis medications and pregnancy. While there is a general principle that it is preferable not to take medication while pregnant, some medical conditions will require ongoing treatment throughout the pregnancy.
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